Faculty members, a staff member, undergraduate and MFA students, and alums all have films in this year’s Independent Film Festival Boston (IFFBoston).
The festival runs from April 27 through May 4. This year’s films will be screened at the Somerville, Brattle, and Coolidge Corner Theatres, as well as WBUR’s CitySpace. They are not being screened online.
Graysen Winchester’s (’23) short film is a mix of animation, live action, and lots of layering of the two, and is screening as part of the festival’s student showcase.
“My film is about a lot of things but mainly about my mom and I and how we both have struggled with being artists,” said Winchester. “I made this film because I wanted to show how our lives are run by the stories that we tell ourselves. I explored this with my relationship to my art and my mom, because those are two of the most important relationships of my life and have at times been really difficult. I wanted to show how sometimes you need to change the narratives you live by to do right by those things you love the most.”
Emerson Los Angeles affiliated faculty member Julian Higgins’ (‘08) first feature film, God’s Country, is screening at the festival and will be released theatrically this fall. As a New Hampshire native, Higgins said it’s personally gratifying for his first feature film to be screened at IFFBoston.
“My Emerson BFA project played at the festival way back in 2009 — it was one of the first real festivals I ever played and holds a really special place in my heart…” said Higgins. “I’m overjoyed that’s happening at a festival that truly feels like home.”
The film is an adaptation of a James Lee Burke short story, and stars Emmy Award-winner Thandiwe Newton. Higgins said the story is born from a historical moment.
“My collaborators and I wanted to respond to the deep-rooted racism, sexism, and misogyny that we feel is woven into the American story, and has obviously taken center stage in the Trump era,” said Higgins. “The idea is to explore the interaction between a person’s psychology and the social structures around them, especially when norms, institutions, and belief systems fail.”
How to Rob is director Peter Horgan’s (’13, MFA ’22) first feature film.
Horgan has directed short films and music videos, and written a dozen features, but could never secure financing. He realized in order to direct his first feature film, he’d need to go the route of low-budget films such as El Mariachi and Clerks. He intentionally wrote thinking of places and props that he could get for free, and wrote for actors he had relationships with who he thought would be game for an indie production.
“The inspiration behind the story came from several friendships I’ve had in my life. People who I grew up with and felt tied to through loyalty,” said Horgan. “Loyalty is a quality that is generally respected in society. But I wanted to explore another side of it. Loyalty can be a double-edged sword. Especially when the people you love and are loyal to engage in dangerous behavior.”
Horgan said he’s never robbed anyone or anything like it, but said he gravitated towards people who didn’t always abide by society’s rules. That led him to write crime thrillers.
“There’s a piece of me in just about every single character (except for one, maybe) and a lot of these characters were inspired by people I know,” said Horgan. “The friendship the film is based around is inspired by several different friendships I’ve had in my life. The stakes are higher because it’s a movie, but the emotion and the love these friends have for each other is real.”
The short documentary was co-directed and co-produced by head of film exhibition and festival programs Anna Feder; Dan Frank, MA ’19; and Justin Reifert, and executive produced by Emerson Trustee Kevin Bright ’76. The film’s title translates from Spanish to English as “never again for anyone,” and depicts the 2019 protests by the Jewish-led organization Never Again Action, against the U.S. Immigration of Customs Enforcement (ICE) contract with the Wyatt Detention Center in Providence.
“I made the film because I wanted to support the work of Never Again as an activist and as a Jew,” said Feder. “I felt aligned with the call to support our undocumented neighbors under the banner of “never again,” and the lesson of the Holocaust.”
Candlepin is a short film directed by affiliated faculty member Gautam Chopra.
“Candlepin is about a high-school math teacher on a hot date who runs into a group of his students,” said Chopra. “While the initial awkwardness of that situation was fun to write, it quickly revealed much darker themes, one of which is how growing up Indian in the Boston suburbs shaped my feeling of ‘otherness’.”
Chopra said the film will make viewers laugh, but it’s sprinkled with familiar personal moments of somber introspection he can’t seem to shake.